Duration: 18 months
Spaceflight textiles, especially when subject to biological contamination (like spacesuit underwear), may pose both an engineering and medical risk to long duration flights. Considering the microbial environment on the ISS and projected mission architectures for planetary surface operations with limited maintenance capabilities, the need for a reduction of the microorganism bioload on textiles becomes more relevant. A recent long-term study on the microbial genome onboard ISS surfaces found a less-than-expected virulence evolution. Data from analog missions w.r.t. the microbiome of spacesuit interiors, suggest, that even with a terrestrial virulence, the genesis of fungal and bacterial load is a challenge. Hence the development of strategies minimizing the development of e.g. biofilms becomes relevant. We suggest investigating the biocidal potential of the secondary metabolites of bacteria for spaceflight textiles, eg for future spacesuits. As an emerging topic in the fashion industry, their use in space environments is yet to be studied. A study would identify factors to reduce the projected bioload for long duration missions and planetary surface activities. Secondly, microbial dying strategies (including a selection of 20+ natural bacteria) will be investigated for their antimicrobial and antifungal properties. It has already been shown that the secondary metabolites can be used to fabricate pigments to dye fibers and yarns with the result of a reduced microbial growth potential. Those strategies go beyond the traditional silver/copper fibre refinement, which themselves have shown to pose risks to health and the environment. However, almost none of these novel techniques have been flight qualified or long-term effects studied, eg their interaction with regolith. Hence, this project aims to increase the TRL and find an applicable solution for textiles used in spaceflight operations, and explore their synergy potential with terrestrial applications .